Becoming Butterfly

June 27, 2014


If humans are nature, and nature is life, and life is conducive to life, then climate change isn’t happening to us, it’s happening for us. Just as fever is a response to disease, climate change is feedback to systemic imbalance. Is it possible to have a good Anthropocene? Just as (I would imagine) giving birth sucks, what comes out the other end could be a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” ― Trina Paulus


Human, technologist or technology?

June 21, 2014

Image credit Ransom & Mitchell –

Ever since Homo came into being 2.3 million years ago, we have been fascinated by tools. Evolution increased human brain size, and we quickly learned to use fire and complex tools. A subset of technology, agriculture has only been around the last 10,000 years. Based on Taleb’s anti-fragility principle, technology is much more anti-fragile than agriculture, since it has been around for a much longer time. Now, this only applies to human technology vs human agriculture. In nature, other species have been using technology for much longer. Take leafcutter ants, for example, who have been farming fungi in an ant-fungus mutualism, which evolved over 50 million years ago. Now, we could say ants are more anti-fragile than humans.

We could consider things in nature as technology. Could bees be technology? Technology is defined as “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” We use bees in agriculture (the science of farming) to provide honey and pollination as well as beeswax for consumer products. If bees serve a purpose and are a species of nature, would it go too far to say humans might serve a purpose, too? What would that purpose be? What would it mean if instead of being the technologist, we’re the technology?

At some point in time, we decided to enact a story that says, “no, we’re separate from nature. We’re smarter. Humans were evolution’s last stop.” Ever since we were little, this is the myth drilled into us. Newsflash: it isn’t true. Out of the millions of species that live on this planet, does it make sense that one would be an outlier that exists to destroy the others, thus destroying itself? Life is conducive to life. Life is resilient. Resiliency is created thru biodiversity. We are not separate from nature. As hard as we try, we can never run away from our own shadow nor can we physically pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It is because we are nature, and we’re coming back to get ourselves.

The Journey

April 17, 2014

My sustainability journey started by watching Story of Stuff. It helped me ask, “how is stuff made?” Understanding “why is stuff made?” led me to research “what is money?” More educated about money, I looked into our fossil fuel addicted economy. Scared out of my mind after researching peak oil and climate change, I started looking for solutions, yet only found more problems with our industrial food system. Then, I discovered permaculture. One of the principles of permaculture is “the problem is the solution.” Regional foodsheds built on real relationships supplied by regenerative farming is one piece of the puzzle. There are over 40+ regenerative agricultural practices that can build topsoil, sequester carbon, provide nutrient-dense food, reduce fossil fuel reliance, increase biodiversity, increase yields, cleanse water, and many more benefits. Can agriculture be the problem as well as the solution? I think so. To find out, my current journey has led me to the hidden world under out feet, soil. Stay tuned!

Grass is always greener

April 6, 2014

…on the other side. Yet when we get there, often times we realize our perceptions deceive us and it was only a trade off. A dichotomy in our human-ness makes us seek stability and improvement at the same time. We know that staying the course with “business-as-usual” mentality will lead us to unadaptable climate change for us. Social and political unrest over access to resource scarcity will cause violent conflict and mass migration to “greener pastures.” The oceans have absorbed most of the carbon in the air, yet we’ve burdened it to the point of ecosystem collapse through ocean acidification. Where then can we put the carbon? What about in the grass itself? What if it was possible to capture and sequester carbon in the prairie grasses and soil itself, increasing natural capital and relieving socioeconomic pressure? Management-intensive grazing experts says yes. In his TED talk, Allan Savory talks about how Holistic Management can help reverse desertification and global warming. Understanding the relationships in our natural ecosystems, including those between carbon, water, soil, grass, and herbivores, will help us create the abundance and greener world we know is possible.

Joining Apitronics

March 28, 2014

I studied Computer Science in college. My mom always nudged me to study another field, but I never did. At the time, I didn’t understand, thinking CS was both intellectually stimulating and career-marketable. My “aha moment” didn’t happen until arriving at Practically Green. Working at this mission-driven startup, I learned so much about the world we live in, system dynamics, our culture, and most importantly, myself. Technology is great, but it’s our interrelated cosmology, social/economic structures, and resources that reminds me this Jeff Goldblum quote from Jurassic Park:

‘..your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.’

To this end, I’m excited to announce I’ll be joining early stage startup Apitronics to work on appropriate technology to further our shared mission of improving agricultural systems. Working out of Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA (come visit us), Apitronics builds the internet of things for farming. Here’s our Kickstarter from last year to help describe the platform. If you know of any farmers in the area, please shoot me a note; I’d love to get to know them. Let the marathon begin!

Apitronics platform

PDC: Part Deux Recap

March 23, 2014

Just returned home from weekend #2 of a permaculture design course. Very exhausted. Was an intense three days crammed with information.

We touched upon many topics, including water capture/store techniques like keyline design, carbon sequestration initiatives like carbon farming, and financial permaculture. We even held a talent show Sat night. I did a skillshare on a tool for behavior change. Much knowledge learned and connections made this weekend. Hope to apply some of it in support of regenerative agriculture.

Lifetime impact using collaborative consumption

March 14, 2014

Being a digital native, I use a decent amount of collaborative consumption services. I wondered over the span of my life, how many interactions and how much money I would spend on these services. This is what I came up with. My favorite part is the 1,000+ experiences shared with others.

Open Full Infographic

View spreadsheet data

Reading List

March 7, 2014

I love learning about the world through reading. At any given time, I’m reading or listening to many books. Here’s a snapshot of my current reading list. Have you read any of these books? Let’s discuss!

Bullets don’t kill people. People kill people.

February 27, 2014

Technology, tools, and teachings. A glorious showcase of the creativity of the human mind. In and of itself, they do not create or solve any problems. They are utterly interdependent on how we use them. Do we act out of love, compassion, and serenity or hate, ignorance, and desire? The global networkification of humans and machines is accelerating and jumps in complexity (ie. personal computing, internet, Bitcoin) will inevitably cause paradigm shifts in our cultures. There will be unintended consequences of course, but it’s futile to resist an idea whose time has come. As we design for the future in a global community with more and more powerful tools, let’s not forget to reflect on the human element of any technology, since bullets don’t kill people; people kill people.

Cryptoeconomy and Humanity

February 24, 2014


I was reading a blog post Cryptocontracts Will Turn Law Into a Programming Language.  It talks about how the protocol that powers bitcoin can and will be used to democratize contractual agreements.

“The emergence of cheap and plentiful self-enforcing contracts means that we can codify simple transactions and agreements. We will be able to reprogram our lives based on self-enforcing cryptocontracts.”

Lawyers in the US take 10% of GDP. Bankers take another 10%. Cryptocontracts and crytocurrencies have the opportunity to fundamentally disrupt both broken legal and financial systems. Here’s another blog post on How Bitcoin Could Revolutionise Accountancy.

On cryptocontracts, a thoughtful commenter writes:

“we developers have a habit of wanting to abstract and code everything – forgetting the importance of human trust, intelligence and relationships in agreements that we make.”

Coincidentally, I just re-watched Equilibrium. It’s a dystopia where a draconian police state has outlawed human emotions as “sense crimes” which is punishable by death. Quote from the movie:

“Father: Prozium – The great nepenthe. Opiate of our masses. Glue of our great society. Salve and salvation, it has delivered us from pathos, from sorrow, the deepest chasms of melancholy and hate. With it, we anesthetize grief, annihilate jealousy, obliterate rage. Those sister impulses towards joy, love, and elation are anesthetized in stride, we accept as fair sacrifice. For we embrace Prozium in its unifying fullness and all that it has done to make us great.”

The possibilities of decentralized technologies are endless and exciting. As we approach the future sci-fi world of invisible cryptography and decentralized trust embedded in our everyday lives, will we remember to relate to and value our trust in each other? Will we remember what it is that makes us human, for better or worse? Embracing technology may give us the illusion of saving the world, yet we’ll need to embrace our inner landscape to save ourselves. I’m cautiously optimistic and optimistically cautious.